With a win in game one of the series, the excitement level at Chase Field was electric. It’s amazing how much enthusiasm one win can have on the fans of a team mired in the cellar of the National League West for going on two years. I actually walked into the stadium with a couple who were comparing the 2010 Diamondbacks with the 2007 Colorado Rockies that stormed into the post season with a late season winning streak.
Much of that enthusiasm evaporated like water on a hot Arizona sidewalk once game two of the Kirk Gibson era got underway. Looking at the match-up it seemed like it would be a close battle between two pitchers who have been surprises this season.
Coming out of Spring Training the Diamondbacks were hoping Rodrigo Lopez could be a serviceable fifth starter. Instead he has become a solid number three starter who has run into his share of bad luck when on the mound. Today’s game was a perfect example.
After a scoreless first inning where Lopez set down the Dodgers three-up, three-down the wheels officially fell off the Diamondbacks bus. Lopez would last just 3.2 innings giving up just 6 hits and walking one single batter and striking out two. That doesn’t sound so bad but then you notice he threw 79 pitches in those three plus innings and was charged with nine runs two of which were earned.
I’ll pause here to allow you a chance to go back and re-read that last paragraph. Yes I said he gave up nine runs and only two of them were earned.
Before the game started, I sat in my seat filling out my scorecard as I do prior to every game. I looked up at the line-up board to set the batting order. I had to take a double-take to make sure I was looking at the right board. Of the starting nine for the Diamondbacks there were only three regulars (four if you count starting pitcher Rodrigo Lopez as a regular).
The starting line-up looked more like a late spring training game than a regular season contest. Cole Gillespie was in left field for Gerardo Parra, Augie Ojeda was at second instead of Kelly Johnson. Chris Snyder was behind the plate for Miguel Montero. Rusty Ryal was at first for Adam LaRoche and Tony Abreu was filling in at shortstop for the injured Stephen Drew.
Having one or two subs in a lineup is fairly common place especially in July or August but to have five was just a little scary. I can appreciate Gibson wanting to get everyone some playing time and playing the percentages by stacking his line-up with right-handed bats versus the left handed Clayton Kershaw but that much change may not necessarily work well all at once.
Such was the case with the Diamondbacks who set a new franchise record by committing six errors in a single game. It was like an impending train wreck. You could see the trains racing towards each other with no signs of stopping. You knew you should turn away but somehow you had to see the wreckage when the trains finally met.
Mark Reynolds committed his ninth error of the season on an errant throw to first base. Reynolds team-leading error barely warranted a footnote in this game. Ryal who is not normally a first baseman by trade committed two errors of his own bobbling a grounder and messing up a throw to a covering pitcher at first. Even that dubious feat didn’t top the list of fielding challenges.
The poster child for fielding struggles was Abreu who committed an amazing three errors in the game doubling the error total he had all season. It wasn’t just the errors but how they came about that is so concerning. Each of the three was routine plays that suddenly became an adventure. From a bobbled ground ball to the two erratic throws the Diamondbacks continued to give the Dodgers extra outs each inning that quickly put the game out of hand.
Going into the ninth inning the Diamondbacks had zero runs, six hits, six men left on base, and six errors. It just seemed appropriate to see 666 on the scoreboard. That box score was somewhat mitigated by a Mark Reynolds home run that not only gave the Diamondbacks their only run of the game but also gave the team more hits than errors which should always be a goal going into a game.
Gibson was left scratching his head adding yet another item to the growing list of things that will need to be worked on in order for this team to return to being competitive.